Mr. Williams seems to have enough years and performances under his belt to know what an audience likesat least, an audience of a certain age. I enjoyed the play, thought it was well-written, and am glad that the Adobe took a chance on it. Whether it will have "legs," I don't know, but I'm sure it would appeal to anyone with even a slight taste for nostalgia.
Nostalgic it may be, but not overly sentimental, which is one of the reasons I liked it. Lost Letter takes place in 1935 in Oxbow, Oklahoma, a dying town that has been walloped by the triple whammy of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and a tornado. I expected that we would have to spend most of the first act being introduced to the quirky "colorful" townsfolk who are trying to hold the town together instead of taking off for California, but wisely that is dispensed with in a matter of minutes before the plot kicks in.
The lost letter of the title is one that was mailed in 1917 to Jennifer Irene Barlow, nicknamed Jib, who seems to be the only youngish woman left in Oxbow. Somehow, the letter was lost by the post office for 18 years. FDR, our first really media-savvy president, has decided to have the letter presented to Jib on a live nationwide radio broadcast from Oxbow. It would do the country good to know that Washington has not forgotten the little people.
He sends a public relations man, Mr. Wilcox, to set up the event, and then over the next two weeks arrive Clay, the young man who has to rebuild the town post office, Ron the radio man, and T. Jefferson Booth, the announcer. One of these quickly becomes the love interest for Jib, and it's a subdued and charming flirtation.
The play builds to the climax, which is the reading of the letter on the air (its writer is not whom I had anticipated, and one minor fault of the play is that there is no way to predict its contents), and this is excitingly handled by the author and his players. The denouement is likewise satisfying.
The set by Matthew Van Wettering, props by Maureen Trujillo, costumes by Carolyn Hogan, and lighting by Jon Dykstra are all really terrific. You can easily believe you're in the rural America of almost 80 years ago.
The play is very well cast and well acted by all. Those colorful townspeople are played by Stephanie Larragoite, Stephen Zamora, Tom Monahan and Patricia Thompson, and nobody overdoes the quirkiness.
Alan Hudson as the PR man is very convincing, as is Micah Linford as the young builder. Tim Riley doesn't have much of a role, but he does it well. Clifton Chadwick is perfect as the announcer, and boy, can he sweat, as if on cue. Katie Anne Mitchell (Jib) is quite reserved for most of the play, as she should be, but when she opens up during the letter-reading scene, it's a joy for all concernedincluding the audience. It's a lovely performance.
It would be nice if this play has a life after the Adobe run ends. I can't say that it is an important play, or that it breaks new ground in any way, but I think it deserves it.
Lost Letter, a new play by W. G. Allen, is being presented at the Adobe Theater in Albuquerque through November 17, 2013. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Info at www.adobetheater.org or (505) 898-9222.